A group of students at Albert Einstein Middle School in Sacramento, Calif. was recently considered to be guilty until proven innocent in a murder case involving a 13-year-old girl.The Sacramento Beeand other sources are reporting that officers from the Sacramento Police Department (SPD) showed up at the school in early April and began removing students from class in order to question them and take DNA samples — and they did so without parental consent.
It all began when the deceased body of young Jessica Funk-Haslam, 13, was found on the morning of March 6 at Rosemont Community Park, which is located just next to the school. According to reports, the girl had been beaten, stabbed and asphyxiated in a baseball diamond dugout just a few yards from the school, and for weeks SPD had trouble identifying any viable suspects in the case.
So to help move things along, several SPD officers decided to approach students at Albert Einstein, pulling them out of class and questioning them about the murder. The officers proceeded in each of these instances to take DNA samples from the students without first getting permission from the students’ parents, claiming they had the right to do so if the students consented on their own behalf.
Though the school district and SPD are attempting to justify this blatant infringement of individual rights, using emotionally charged excuses about finding the killer as quickly as possible, many parents and local community members are up in arms over the incident. Not only were many of the kids that were questioned and swabbed too young to have made a cognizant and informed decision to “consent” in the first place, but each of them was basically deemed guilty before proven innocent, which is a violation of the U.S. Constitution.
The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution explicitly prohibits unreasonable search and seizure without probable cause or a warrant. Since none of the children involved in the questioning and swabbing sweep was an actual, legitimate suspect, the SPD officers who conducted it, and school administrators that perpetrated and allowed it were in clear violation of the law, and should be held accountable for their actions.
“By pressuring these children into giving up their DNA, the police have engaged in frightening posture, which is to say, ‘you are guilty unless we can prove otherwise,'” said one unidentified commenter atThe Sacramento Beeabout the incident. “While it is an absolutely horrific crime that was committed, we as a society cannot go down this road.”
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